Note from Shannon: Please welcome Julie Feickert, Founder of Cultures for Health and Cultured Kitchen-Keeper.
At least twice a year we travel for conferences to exhibit CFH products. It’s a lot of fun to meet our customers and talk with them about their culturing projects. Generally speaking we are gone for 3-5 weeks each time as we travel with a camping trailer and camp our way across the US and back home again.
Being away from home for such an extensive period requires a few adjustments to my culturing routine to keep all my cultures safe as well as keep us well stocked with cultured food on the road.
Preparing to Leave
As a practical matter, I don’t ask the house sitter to keep all my cultures happy and healthy while I’m gone, so over the next few days I will be putting all my various cultures on hold.
Kombucha. My kombucha is probably the easiest culture to walk away from. I brew in large 3-5 gallon glass containers and while I normally only brew for about 3 weeks, kombucha does fine being neglected for 30 days or even a bit more. I timed my most current batch so it can be harvested a day or two before we leave.
I’ll bottle up around three dozen 16 oz. bottles to take with us and I’ll refill my brewing jars with fresh sugared tea. I could just put my scobys in fresh sugar tea in the fridge to hibernate while we are gone but I’m sort of addicted to my daily bottle of kombucha and if I don’t have a batch going while we are gone, it will be 3 weeks before I have more once we return. The tradeoff though is that the new batch will be well brewed (and maybe a bit over fermented) when we return. I’ve stocked up on fruit juice to use for flavoring. Bottling and flavoring will likely be the first thing I do when I return next month.
Water kefir. My water kefir grains are going into a fresh batch of sugar water with a bit of molasses for extra minerals. I’ll put a lid on the jar and pop them in the fridge to rest while we are gone. Once we return, I’ll let them cycle through a batch or two of fresh sugar water to bring them out of the cold-induced state of hibernation and we’ll be back to making water kefir.
Vegetable ferments and condiments. I’ve known about this trip for months so I’ve timed all my current vegetable and condiment projects to complete their fermentation process before we leave. Some will go in the fridge to age (for flavor development) while we are gone and some will come with us.
Since I’ve known for a while this trip was approaching I’ve purposefully scaled back the number of cultures I currently have going. There have been times though when I also have some yogurt or gluten-free sourdough culturing in my kitchen and those cultures can also be put on hold. Click here for a complete set of instructions for putting cultures on hold.
Culturing on the Road
I have learned through our last few trips that culturing while traveling is a bit challenging and so I have two distinct approaches. First, I bring as many cultured foods as I can. This trip we will leave home with three dozen bottles of kombucha, a big jar of sauerkraut, pickles, and cultured condiments like the fresh batch of kombucha mustard I’m finishing up today. Second, I use a powdered kefir starter to make kefir for the kids out of juice or coconut water. Click here to read my previous post on why I make kefir with a powdered starter instead of my beloved kefir grains when we are traveling.
It feels good to have a system in place for these trips. With a little effort I can ensure that we are well stocked with cultured foods to keep our systems’ healthy during our trip while also ensuring the cultures at home are happy, healthy, and ready to go to work upon our return.
Do you have a system for leaving your cultures for extended periods? I’d love to hear about it!